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Let's stand up for the armed forces

Published:Wednesday | July 28, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Danville Walker, Contributor

THE UNITED States of America has a long tradition of wars and conflicts in the name of freedom. Many, especially in America, disagree from time to time about the reasons the country goes to war, but what there is never any disagreement about is support for the men and women of the armed forces.

Thank God, we have never found ourselves having to take military action to defend our shores against an invading army, but we have had to have our soldiers stand up beside our local constabulary many times, as we fight our wars against crime and violence.

Our soldiers have done us proud over many decades, carrying out the instructions of our leaders whether it was our involvement in Grenada, Haiti or tough inner-city neighbourhoods in Jamaica. We all sleep better knowing that we have a Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) to give our hardworking police force a hand in a dangerous task.

Mistakes are always made, sometimes grave ones, and we must learn from all of them. What we must never do is discount the valuable service and contribution the men and women of the JDF and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) give. Every day they put on their uniforms and put themselves in harm's way. Most of us would never make that sacrifice and, in fact, would never encourage our children to do so. Our troops have a tough job, and we must respect them and stand up for them as they have done for us.

The National Reserves

Permit me a few thoughts about those who serve in the military reserves. Once the state of emergency was announced, the National Reserve (NR) became a full-time job. Men and women who have their regular jobs reported to Up Park Camp to join their collegues who are full-time soldiers to make their contribution. It is what they were trained for, so it is what they did. Were they afraid? Only a fool is not afraid. I once read that bravery is not about not being afraid, it is how you act when you are afraid that defines you as brave. The reserve soldier is one who most times have good careers and don't do this work just for the money. In fact, many times their careers are jeopardised by serving in the NR as the demands of military service and a call out can cause some to have to forgo continuing education, or be overlooked for promotions as some employers feel there is a 'risk' of them not, being available as they are committed to the army.

Quiet point of shame

It should be a quiet point of shame for any leader in the private sector, who, knowing what we face, sticks their head in the sand and not take action to protect reserve soldiers in their employ. No soldier is asking you to come out there, pick up a rifle and hold a post, but they expect the enemy to be in front of them, not stabbing them in the back, while enjoying the freedom to sleep a little sounder because they chose to respond to duty's call. They expect their service to count, not just with the army, but with their employers, their communities and their families. There are many good corporate citizens who recognise this service, who ensure that, wherever they can, those soldiers get the support they need. Those companies and their managers must be commended. They also serve.

The need for and the extension of a state of emergency is the decision of the leadership of our country. Reserve soldiers don't question those things, they simply kiss their loved ones, pack their bags and report for duty, remaining there until they are relieved. It's what they do, and we must show our support and our gratitude.

Danville Walker is Commissioner of Customs